It's been a fantastic year for wild fruit, with huge sprays of blackberries and sloes dangling enticingly from the hedgerows.
Aside from the obligatory sloe gin, I've made blackberry and apple jelly, fruit crumbles and chutneys, and piled bags of berries in the freezer for the winter.
I made this savoury blackberry sauce to serve with duck, but it works very well with lamb and venison, too.
It takes a bit longer to cook than some sauces, involving as it does a couple of reductions, but it repays the effort and it's worth making double quantities so you have some ready-made for another occasion, freezer space allowing.
Duck with Blackberry Sauce (serves 2)
2 duck breasts
4 shallots, peeled and finely sliced
1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
Knob of butter
About 300g blackberries, fresh or frozen (defrosted if frozen)
1 glass of red wine
2 tbsp sloe gin
2 sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
1 heaped tbsp of blackberry or redcurrant jelly
400 ml beef stock
Make the sauce first ... gently fry the shallots and garlic with a knob of butter until soft. Add the wine and sloe gin and reduce by three-quarters.
Add two-thirds of the blackberries, the jelly, herbs and stock, stir and reduce by two-thirds. Push the sauce through a sieve into a clean pan.
The sauce should be thick enough but if not, a half teaspoon of cornflour mixed with a little cold water should do the trick. Stir it in and cook gently until any floury taste has gone. Set aside until you've cooked the duck.
Score the skin on the duck breasts in a diamond pattern, making sure you don't cut into the meat underneath. Season all over with salt and pepper.
Put a non-stick pan on the hob. Without adding any oil, put the duck breasts in the cold pan, skin-side down, and cook on a medium heat for 6-8 minutes or until golden brown. Pour off the fat and seal the other side for 30 seconds.
Place skin-side up in a roasting tray in the middle of the oven and cook for 10 minutes if you'd like it rare, 15 minutes for medium. I'm not keen on well-done duck, it tastes liverish, but if you insist, it's 18 minutes.
Remove from the oven and rest somewhere warm for 10 minutes while you finish the sauce: put the pan back on the heat with the remaining blackberries (reserving a few for garnish) and heat through gently. Carve the duck and serve with the sauce and reserved berries.